DAINIK NATION BUREAU
Four days having passed since the polling was held, while the leaders across the spectrum are worried with the poll- scenario remaining mired in murkiness the poll pundits, on the other hand, are busy seeking to evolve a pattern out of things, eluding a standard explanation. The pollsters say that aside from the pattern of the two principal contenders for power-Congress and BJP-taking turns to come to power in successive elections being held since 2002, there is another one. “It is that the people here are inclined to vote against the party ruling at the Centre. For instance, in 2002, they opted for Congress when BJP-led NDA was ruling at the Centre. Wheels of fortunes reversed in the next election held in 2007 when the people voted BJP to power with the Congress-helmed UPA ruling in Delhi. However, things turned baffling during the 2012 election when Congress was ruling the Centre as they helped Congress form the government despite the mandate having thrown a hung House. The tradition of going against the ruling party at the Centre- if it is construed to be weighing with the people while they choose their government in the state- ruptured that time, adding mystery to the their electoral behavior. Now, the question is what they have done this time. Congress ruling the state for the past five years, the mandate is likely to go against the ruling party, given the long-enduring tradition. At the same time, the question is whether they have voted for Congress in consonance with their penchant to vent opposition to the party that rules at the Centre. Taking both the factors into account, it can be safely said that a photo-finish, a sort of cliffhanger is what is awaiting the mountain state as things would unfold on March 11-the day counting would be taken up,” said an observer while seeking to explain the jigsaw puzzle that the polling presented with the people having chosen to keep their cards close to their chests till the end of the fiercely fought electoral battle.
However, there is another point that deserves to be mentioned. Poll specialists say that the anti-incumbency blowing against the incumbent MLAs influence the voters as much as the same against the state government on the whole. However, in case of the former, the parties try to mitigate the negative trend by replacing the incumbents with fresh faces. And this is what both Congress and BJP did while zeroing in on the factor of winnability of the candidates to be put in the fray. It is here that an interesting thing happened which is befuddling both the leaders and the pundits. As for four plain districts – Dehradun, Haridwar, Udham Singh Nagar and Nainital, having between themselves a little more than half of the seats of the House-36 seats- BJP forged ahead of Congress during the 2012 hustings, securing 17 seats as against 15 of Congress. Notably, while Dehradun sends 10 MLAs from the district the figures are 11, 09 and 06 for Haridwar, Udham Singh Nagar and Nainital districts. And in all these four districts, the poll percentage has not risen much as compared to the last faceoff 2012. However, when we get down to the micro level analysis involving certain constituencies where the rebels both from Congress and BJP are in the fray the turnout has risen a bit. “Things look tricky. If we view things through the macro prism of anti-incumbency apparently blowing against the state government it might mean that the Congress can hardly be written off of the reckoning. if we view things from the micro prism of the voters casting votes to vent disapproval against the sitting MLAs it might mean that both BJP and Congress are at the receiving end of the mandate with the higher turnout indicating the trend of the voters rejecting the rebels who have switched sides to fight on the tickets of the parties they were hostile to till recently. However, confounding confusion, the turnout is higher than the previous poll in a few of the seats such ‘turncoats’ are contesting from. This explains how difficult it is to hazard a guess, given the fluidity of the situations. We are really at our wits’ end,” admits a poll specialist who has been analyzing the poll outcomes since the maiden election of the state in 2002.
In Haridwar district, the polling percentage was 75.35 during 2012 election while this time it is 74.48. In Udham Singh Nagar, the percentage was 76.84 during 2012 polling while this time it is 76.23. In Dehradun, the percentage was 67.16 during the previous face-off while this time it is 64.33. And in Nainital district, the percentage during 2012 was 68.07 while it is hovering around 65.83 this time.
In Udham Singh Nagar for instance, three dissidents-Dr Shailendra Mohan Singhal, Yashpal Arya and former CM Vijay Bahuguna’s son Saurabh Bahuguna- are contesting on BJP tickets from Jaspur, Bazpur and Sitarganj constituencies respectively. During the election-2012, the poll percentage was 77.43, 76.84 and 80.24 respectively, but this time the figures are 78.41, 75.94 and 79.50 respectively. In Nainital district, Bhimtal is the constituency from where the BJP dissident Dan Singh Bhandari is contesting on Congress ticket. The turnout was 66.04 percent during 2012 election while this time it has come down to 65.24 percent.
Things are mystifying particularly in the electorally crucial Udham Singh Nagar from where the chief minister Harish Rawat himself is in the fray from one of the nine constituencies. The turnout percentage has presented a baffling picture with the figures varying from constituency to constituency. Here are the figures of the two elections-2012 and 2017. The figures of 2012 for Gadarpur, Kichha, Khatima, Nanakmatta, Kashipur and Rudrapur were 82.55, 76.50, 77.05, 74.52, 78.97 and 78.48 while they are 77.39, 73.97, 81.06, 77.92, 67.96 and 73.80 respectively.
A pollster appropriately says that the time for predicting mandate on the basis of the poll percentage going up and down is perhaps ending. “The voters of Uttarakhand have landed us in a veritable jigsaw with a clear picture eluding us even if we take pains to find an order from both the macro and micro poll details,” he says despairingly.